5 Inexpensive Places to Hold Your Kids' Birthday Party

Dollars & Sense on 07.11.12
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Photo: Sarah Fernandez

When it comes to throwing my kids' birthday parties, I'm very frugal, but I also really like to put on a good party. In the past I've always put on a big shindig at my home for the kids in which I put a lot of hours into getting the party I want without spending a fortune because I refuse to pay $200 to rent a space at the local bounce house, swimming pool, or arcade. I didn't think it was possible to have a party outside of the house that wasn't outrageously expensive and still impressive, but the truth is that it's quite easy. This year I finally ventured outside of the house for my son's sixth birthday, and he had one of his greatest parties while I spent less than ever and didn't have to worry about the house being clean or spend hours crafting to create the "experience." There are lots of places that you can hold birthday parties without having to spend a fortune in venue rental fees. Here are a few to consider:

1. Fire Department- Most local fire departments are happy to give tours of the station and let the kids climb on the trucks, and it often doesn't cost a penny to do so. Just add cupcakes outside the station and you'll have a lot of happy kids, but warning, while the firemen are happy to give the tours, they can't guarantee that they won't be called out for an emergency at the time of your party. That can either be a major bonus for the kids to see some real action or a total bummer depending on how you look at it.

2. Public Park- Is there a kid that doesn't love a playground? I think not. And actually a playground isn't even always necessary as long as you've got a big open space for the kids to run around in. Invite everyone to the playground or follow the lead from my Easter Egg Hunt and bring your own games to an open space and offer games, light snacks, and cake. You can even offer a rain date in case you are worried about inclement weather.

3, Local Sporting Event- For my baseball obsessed son's birthday, we took him and nine friends along with some of their parents to a local Summer College Baseball League game. The kids loved watching the game, and the tickets were only one dollar apiece for them which left plenty for me to pay for the parents' tickets and to feed the kids. Even if you don't have one of these teams in your area, consider taking the kids to a high school or college level game that they'll enjoy. The tickets are much less than professional leagues and especially for the younger kids who are just getting into sports, it's still very exciting.

4. Pizza Parlor- Just about everyone loves pizza so why not make the meal part of the entertainment. While you could do a make-your-own pizza party at home, many pizza parlors will also let you do them (just don't aim for a Friday or Saturday night) and without an added premium. The food becomes the entertainment and the kids will love making their own culinary creations. Even if they don't get to make their own, they'll still be excited to go out for pizza together, and the cost of the party won't run you much more than the cost of ordering a few pizzas.

5, Lobster Shop- While many people may think of lobster as being a luxury, we went to a great low key lobster party that was so much fun. All the kids gathered at the local fisherman's store to check out the lobsters in the tank ranging from tiny to huge. They splashed and observed before donning lobster bibs and enjoying adorable cupcakes with chocolate shells and gummy lobsters on top. Lobsters just happen to be readily available where we live, but if your local attractions include hiking trails or hay bales just figure out a way to turn a readily available local item into a party.

The fact is that many of us--me included--make birthday parties over complicated. Sometimes less party planning can actually create a better party so before you nix a party outside of the house, think about what your local area really has to offer. 

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